A Poem by Yeats

Hopeful and defiant in equal measure, this gem of late Irish symbolism has been a favorite since I first read it in a subway car in New York City around 2003 (where it was displayed as part of the MTA’s inspiring Poetry in Motion campaign). Written by the 47-year-old William Butler Yeats in 1912, it was published four years later in the collection Responsibilities and Other Poems. Here it is—in the original and in my Polish translation from several years ago.


I made my song a coat     
Covered with embroideries     
Out of old mythologies     
From heel to throat;     
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes     
As though they’d wrought it.     
Song, let them take it     
For there’s more enterprise     
In walking naked.


Z mojej pieśni
Płaszcz zrobiłem
Cały pokryty haftami
Starymi mitologiami
Od pięty po szyję;
Ale głupcy go zdobyli,
Przed światem nosili,
Jakby sami uszyli.
Pieśni, niech Cię mają tako,
Najintratniej—chodzić nago.